lundi 29 décembre 2008

Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban giant

Introduction :

It is impossible to mention Cuban boxing, without starting with an article dedicated to Teofilo Stevenson, the first idol of amateur boxing in this country. He is the first Cuban to win three gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships. Moreover, his political commitment for his country made him popular both in Cuba and outside this island.

Teofilo Stevenson Lawrence is born on March 29th, 1952 in Las Tunas/Cuba. His father is from St. Vincent and his mother from Cuba.

Boxing situation in Cuba:

To understand the career of Stevenson, it should be noted that Cuba has always had a strong boxing tradition, having promoted many great professionals champions as Kid Chocolate, Kid Galivan, etc.

Professional boxing was banned in Cuba in 1962, following the arrival of Fidel Castro, in order, according to the socialist phraseology, to fight against the exploitation of man by man. Since then, many fighters have left the country, like Jose Angel Napoles, to continue their professional career outside of Cuba.

The fighters can only fight as amateurs, with varying success. Alcides Sagarra is the creator of the Cuban school, since 1964. Sagarra has received assistance from the Soviet coach Andrei Chervonenko. In 1968, Cubans win two silver medals at the Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Debuts :

Teofilo Stevenson begins boxing in 1966, with age 14, in the - 71 kg category. His first fight is against Luis Enriquez and the latter wins on points.

Teofilo StevensonA young Teofilo Stevenson

Stevenson has 14 defeats in his first 20 fights. His first coach is John Herrera. We find a professional record of 41 victories, 21 defeats and 2 draws for Young John Herrera, aka Ignacio Herrera, heavyweight from Las Tunas/Cuba, from 1931 to 1945. Herrera met Arturo Godoy in 1933, losing on points in 10 rounds, to face the future challenger for Joe Louis.

In 1968, Stevenson wins the gold Medal in the Cuba Junior Championships, in the + 81 kg division.

In 1969, Stevenson wins the silver medal at nationals Playa Giron and becomes a student of Chervonenko and Sagarra.

At the age of 17 years, he beats by ko Nancio Carrillo, at the Sport City of La Havana in 1969. Carrillo was favourite and represented Cuba in the Olympic Games in Mexico City.

In September 1970, Stevenson participates at the 1st Central American Championships in Havana, where he wins against Earl McClear/Bermuda.

Stevenson wins his first title abroad, at the Friendship Tournament in Sofia/Bulgaria in 1970.

In August 1971, Stevenson takes part to the Pan American Games in Cali/Columbia. He loses against Duane Bobick/USA and wins the bronze medal. Duane Bobick becomes a professional fighter, with various victories against journeymen, before losing by ko against Ken Norton.

1972 Olympic Games :

In 1972, Munich/West Germany at the Olympic Games, Teofilo Stevenson def Duane Bobick, stopped by the referee at the 3rd round (RSC), in 1/4 finals, taking his revenge of the Pan-American Games. A short video of the match: http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=f7Htu0ldusU

Teofilo Stevenson Duane Bobick
Duane Bobick on the canvas, in front of the Cuban.

Stevenson still beats Peter Hussing/West Germany, RSC in the 2nd round. Short video : http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=PwsKncVbuLg

In finals, Stevenson beats Romanian Ion Alexe, by walk-over, following an injury. In 1973, Stevenson def Alexe, in the 2nd round during the Golden Belt Tournament in Bucharest/Romania.

In 1973, he loses on points, against Igor Visotsky/USSR, during the finals of the tournament "Giraldo Cordova Cardin" in Santiago de Cuba.

1974 World Championships :

In 1974, during the first World Amateur Championships in Havana/Cuba, Stevenson def Peter Hussing by ko in the 1st round. Peter Hussing will have a very long career in amateur boxing, becomes European Champion in 1979 and is 3rd in the 1982 World Championship. Hussing has 439 fights in his record. Short video of the fight : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrMm8MpbVK8

Stevenson beats the American Marvin Stinson/USA, in the finals, on points and becomes World Champion. Marvin Stinson will have a very short pro career, from 1977 to 1982, and never wins any title (12 wins, 3 losses and 3 zero).

In 1975, Stevenson def Gair Campos/Brazil and Michael Dokes/USA, on points in the finals of the Pan American Games in Mexico City. Michael Dokes becomes World Champion in professional during a long career from 1976 to 1997 (53 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties).

During the Usov tournament finals in Minsk/USSR, Igor Vysotsky beats Stevenson by ko in the 3rd. Stevenson has already been counted in the first round. The two opponents will never meet again. Vysotsky has plenty other fights until 1980. He has participated only at a 1978 World Championships, losing against the French Dominique Nato. He allegedly participated in an exhibition with Muhammad Ali, in Moscow in 1978. The same year, Vysotsky becomes URSS Champion. He will defected from USSR to the USA in 1981, where he does not seem to have fought as a pro. His amateur record is 185 fights for 161 wins.

1976 Olympic Games :

In 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal/Canada, Teofilo Stevenson, in the semi-finals, beats by ko the American John Tate, in the 1st round. Short video : http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti9iEraS0ns

John Tate becomes World Professional Champion, during a career from 1977 to 1988 (34 wins, 3 losses).

In the finals, Stevenson beats the Romanian Mircea Simon, by retirement in the 3rd round. A short video of the match at this address: http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=eloeP6PDiCQ

Teofilo Stevenson vs Mircea Simon
Teofilo Stevenson vs Mircea Simon
Teofilo Stevenson (left) against Mircea Simon.

Fight against Muhammad Ali :

At this moment begins the story of Teofilo Stevenson becoming pro, in order to face Muhammad Ali, World Heavyweights Champion. Promoters have offered him several millions dollars, but without success. Stevenson replied that he preferred the love of the Cuban people.

Finally, no match with Ali will be held.

In 1977, Teofilo Stevenson is wounded by the explosion of an alcohol stove and severely burned on the body and on the face.

1978 World Championships :

For the World Championships in Belgrade/Yugoslavia, Stevenson beats on points Tony Tubbs/USA, in the quarter-finals. Tony Tubbs becomes World professional Champion during a career from 1980 to 2006 (47 wins, 10 defeats).

Stevenson beats Dragomir Vujkovic/YU, in the finals by Ret in the 2nd round. Vujkovic has already lost in the semi-finals of the CM 1974 and was eliminated by Luis Felipe Martinez at the 1976 OG, in the middleweights. He is maybe an "inflated" heavy weight at these championships. The proof is that in February 1978, before the CM, Vujkovic fought against the USA in the light-heavyweights, and won against Charles Singleton. In February 1979, after the CM, Vujkovic also fought in the light-heavyweights, losing in the finals of the Yugoslav Championships, against Tadija Kacar. This change of weight category could be due to a lack of a reel Yugoslav heavyweight champion.

In 1980, shortly before the Olympics in Moscow, Stevenson loses by Walk-Over against the Cuban Angel Rivero Milian, in the finals of the tournament Cardin. Stevenson has already beaten Milian on numerous occasions before.

1980 Olympic Games :

Before the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, many countries (USA for example) are absent, regarding the boycott following the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. Note that the American amateur boxing team was decimated in a plane crash in Poland. The best US fighters were not in this team.

Istvan Levai/Hungary, will be the first boxer to survive the 3 rounds, without being koed by Stevenson, during the Olympic Games.

In the finals, Stevenson beats the Soviet Pyotr Zayev, also on points. Pyotr Zayev have only won this silver medal at this OG. Zayev has beaten twice Igor Vysotsky, who has also beaten Stevenson twice. Zayev takes also part to the exhibition with Muhammad Ali, in 1978, in Moscow.

Stevenson joins Lazlo Papp in the boxing history, with 3 Olympic gold medals. The video of the fight : http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=AEgKQXP5j30

Teofilo Stevenson Pyotr Zayev
Stevenson, left, at the Olympic Games in Moscow. An elegant guard.

1982 World Championships :

Something new has emerged during these championships, disputed in Munich/West Germany. The super-heavyweights division, or + 91 kg, is introduced. This will reduce the number of small fighters in the "very heawy division", now limited to the real giants.

In the first phase, Francesco Damiani/Italy beats Stevenson by 5 to 0. Francesco Damiani, will have a long amateur career, during which he will get the silver medal at the 1982 World Championships and the silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, both in the super-heavyweights. Damiani becomes professional from 1985 to 1993, winning the titles of European champion and WBO World Champion (30 wins, 2 losses).

In 1983, Stevenson loses on points against Jorge Luis Gonzales/Cuba for the Championship "Playa Giron". Jorge Luis Gonzales, taller than Stevenson, wins two Pan-American Championships in 1985 and 1987. He will defect in Finland in 1991 and becomes professional in the USA, with 31 wins, 8 defeats and no world title.

Stevenson loses on points 2-3 against the Soviet Alexander Lukstin, in the finals of the Cordova Cardin Tournament. Stevenson loses again against Greg Payne, for the North America Championships.

In 1982, Stevenson def Tyrell Biggs ko in the 2nd. Tyrell Biggs is the 1982 World Champion and favourite for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

1984 Olympic Games :

Before the Olympic Games, Teofilo Stevenson def Tyrell Biggs on points.

Cuba makes a boycott for the Olympics in Los Angeles, with the East-Bloc countries, in response to the American boycott of 1980. The wearing of headguards is made compulsory for the first time in Olympic Games or World Championships. Nevertheless, for a certain period, fights will be sometimes contested with fighters with a helmet against fighters without a helmet, as evidenced by these two photos.

Teofilo Stevenson vs Olaf WaltherStevenson (left with a helmet) against Olaf Walther,
during a tournament in Berlin, in 1984


Teofilo Stevenson vs Olaf WaltherStevenson (left with a helmet) against Sergej Kirmilzyn,
during a tournament in Halle/East Germany, in 1985

During the Friendship Games during the summer 1984, with the socialist countries, Stevenson wins the gold medal by defeating Valeri Abadzhan/USSR, fight video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULqfYxzxcd4 and Ulli Kaden/East Germany.

In March 1986, Stevenson loses against Ulli Kaden and against his countryman Osvaldo Castillo, in the finals of the tournament Cardin. Some believe that Stevenson must then retire.

1986 World Championships :

Nevertheless, in Reno/USA, Stevenson beats the American Alex Garcia, by RSC in the 2nd round in the finals. Alex Garcia is a pro, from 1987 to 2005, with a record of 40 wins 6 losses and 1 draw. He is never the challenger for a world title .

Stevenson becomes the first triple World Champion, at the age of 34 years. He wins the Russell Cup for the best boxer of the tournament.

During this tournament are headgears an obligation.

Stevenson announces his retirement from competition in 1987.

He would have been charged for a traffic accident, with death, at the same time.

In 1988, he fights perhaps a last battle in Las Tunas/Cuba.

Stevenson will host Ali in 1998, during his visit to Cuba.

In 1999, during a journey in the USA, he is accused of headbutting an airline employee on an airport. Stevenson claims that he was insulted.

Amateur boxing :

The boxers from the East and from Cuba never become professionals. Their amateur careers are long and forced them to encounter many times the same opponents.

Teofilo Stevenson, for example, has fought Ulli Kaden/East Germany, 9 times for 6 wins and 3 defeats. Ulli Kaden has won the European title in 1987.

Cuban boxing :

Teofilo Stevenson remains in history as the best Cuban heavyweight fighter, but he was opposed to high-level compatriots. For example, Millian Angel Rivero, who was opposed 10 times to the Cuban giant. Stevenson has won 6 times and lost once, while 3 of their fights finish with a no-contest, in the finals of tournaments. Maybe the trainers did not want to oppose them seriously.

Angel Rivero Millian remains a substitute for Stevenson, often selected to replace Igor Vysotskiy, who lost to Millian and won to Stevenson, if he represented the USSR.

Record :

His record has 302 victories with 22 defeats, almost 16 fights per year from 1966 to 1986.

His longevity is noteworthy. Stevenson remained at the highest international level from 1970 to 1986, almost 16 years.

Stevenson is three times World Champion and Olympic Champion. He was also twice Pan American champion, seven times Central America champion and 12 times Cuba champion.

To have a look at his record, here is the address of the best site about amateur boxing, written in Spanish : http://www.geocities.com/pedrinet/stevenson.html

Style :

Stevenson has a very classical style, with a middle guard, his legs movements are very sober, a piston left and a devastating right.

Moreover, despite his large size, he does not hesitate to work as an in-fighter, with powerful uppercuts.

Teofilo Stevenson
A devastating right

He is relatively quick for a heavyweight of his size, approx. 195 cm and weight approx. 100 kg and was very athletic throughout his career.

Where is he now ? :

Teofilo Stevenson, who speaks fluent English, often accompanies Cuban teams when travelling abroad.

Teofilo Stevenson and Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro and Teofilo Stevenson with the Cuban flag

He worked as an sport official in Cuba, for boxing in particular

He is the subject of numerous reports and articles and remains a showcase of Cuban sport.

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